By E. Glenford Prescott
St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Windward Islands talismanic batsman, Sunil Walford Ambris has finally been given the call by the West Indies selectors in a 13-man squad named Tuesday to play against India in the third, fourth and fifth matches in their five-match ODI series at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground.
The fifth match is scheduled for Sabina Park on July 6.
The call up will see him become the 11th Vincentian to represent the West Indies at the international level across all formats –Test, ODI and T20.
It comes after months of speculation and anticipation following the impressive return by the 24-year-old Vincentian in the regional four-day competition, where he scored more than 600 runs, including a record 231 at an average of just under 44. The 231 made against the Leewards Islands Hurricanes was the highest individual score by a Windwards batsman in regional cricket but fell just short of Irvin Shillingford’s 238 — the Windwards overall record — made in 1977 against the Leewards.
Ambris, a fluent right-handed batsman, also scored 423 runs in the Regional Super50 for the Windwards Volcanoes with six half centuries at an average of 70.
However, despite such impressive returns, Ambris, who was the third highest run-getter in the Super50 behind Keiron Powell and Shai Hope, was overlooked as other players including Barbadian Roston Chase were called by the Courtney Browne-led panel.
“I knew the call would come eventually because I had the consistency like others and it was only a matter of time,” Ambris said on Wednesday.
He said that upon receiving the call he was both happy and nervous since it is always every young sportsman’s desire to play their sport at the highest level.
Recognising that the expectations from everyone would be high, Ambris said he intends to play as he has done over time.
“I know that international cricket would be different, especially when you are playing against quality opposition, but there is no reason for me to change the style and approach, which has taken me this far,” Ambris said in a voice fighting a losing battle against sleep.
Ambris bursts onto the scene with a debut century in his very first innings as a first class cricketer at the age of 20 when he got what many said was an impressive 114 for the Windward Islands against Guyana at Providence in 2014.
He remains the youngest and the first Windward Islands batsman to hit a century in his first innings at the first class level.
His entry into the Windwards team back then came by way of fortune as he was drafted into the squad to replace Andre Fletcher, who was away on West Indies duties. He was included in the final team after Dalton Polius, a player who many felt had no right in the team, withdrew on the morning of the game, due to a back injury.
Ambris needed no second asking and the young Vincentian showed his class for 238 minutes, 200 balls and hit 17 fours. While many across the region squinted at the “yonder star”, Vincentians followers of local cricket were saying, “Just wait and you will see.”
The young player carved out a few other good scores in the remaining matches but his form deserted him during the 2015 season.
A victim of the “Windwards cricket politics”, Ambris was put under tremendous pressure to maintain his place in the team and only did so with the support of then selector Lance John, who, reports say, convinced his fellow panellists to give the talented player “another chance”. John also took it upon himself to advise the player as to how best to overcome the slump and loss of confidence.
“I have never doubted Sunil’s ability to reach the top and made sure to give him my support when he was going through tough times. For those of us who have played sports, we all know that you would go through a rough patch and the important thing then is who offer you advice and what type of advice,” John explained.
John, a former Windwards Islands captain and opener, said that Ambris has the class, technique and temperament to succeed at the international and urged him to be natural and selective while at the crease.
Ambris, who captains Guardian General Saints in the NLA Premier Division, has shown good form with a season high 188 against Victors 1 at the main Arnos Vale Playing Field.
The brother of former Windwards opener, Romel Currency and son former Saints captain Walford Ambris, Sunil’s introduction to local cricket came at an early age, when he would accompany those two, to matches and occupy his time with pulverising the other little unfortunate souls who chose to bowl at him on the boundary edge.
He followed his relatives into the Saints team at age 13 but had to wait a while to get a regular place. He became the youngest player to score a Premier Division century when he scored 116 against Police 2 at Arnos Vale 2 as a 15-year-old.
Ambris’ growth with the help of his brother, father and club manager, Foster Huggins, has not only seen him now taken the mantle a the Windwards leading batsman, but is now tipped to lead the team in place of Liam Sebastien, who has fallen out of favour now his father Lockhart Sebastien is no longer team manager.
He joins pacer and compatriot, Kesrick Williams, on the only occasion when two Vincentians have been named in a senior West Indies squad.
The two have been preceded by Alfie Roberts, Mike Findlay, Winston Davis, Ian Allen, Cameron Cuffy, Nixon McClean, Deighton Butler, Miles Bascombe, and Kenroy Peters as Vincentians who wore the maroon cap.
Ambris said his ambition is to command a place in the team for a prolonged period by making full use of this chance — an opportunity that many Vincentians feel is long overdue.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said Ambris was the 10th Vincentian to represent the West Indies at the international level across all formats –Test, ODI and T20. He is, in fact, the 11th. The list also includes Miles Bascombe.